16 Aug 2008

Mountain party could still be alive

7:34 am on 16 August 2008

Experienced mountaineers say a party of six Australian climbers missing in Mt Cook National Park could still be alive despite not having been seen for a week.

Atrocious weather and extreme avalanche risk hampered efforts to find the climbers on Friday. An emergency beacon was activated on Thursday night.

Federated Mountain Clubs former president Brian Stephenson says they could still be alive if they are carrying snow shovels and able to build a snow cave for shelter.

He says there have been cases of people surviving up to 11 days in a snow cave on Aoraki-Mount Cook.

Search teams hope to be able to start looking for the group on Saturday morning.

Australian media report the party consists of two women and four men from Sydney aged in their 30s.

A brief aerial search was made on Friday afternoon, when the emergency beacon was located. A helicopter team found that it had been activated in the Metelille Glacier area of Mt Cook national park.

The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council has issued a warning of extreme avalanche risks for Mt Cook National Park and other parks.

A helicopter and a specialised alpine team is on standby in Mt Cook Village.